Aren't Wins wonderful? Everybody feelin' good dissecting a W, and we all know we're starved for 'em. Even though we should be winning with more regularity, we are a long way from having the players and game to have"guaranteed" wins yet. So what's to cheer for? Willpower, and DEFENSE!.
Willpower has arrived. Both against Portland and Milwaukee there were moments when the other teak went on a run to put us down 10-12. Earlier this season that was it, lights out...and all too often when other teams had us down, they kicked us too! When those moments arrived the last two games the Kings spines stiffened; they dug in, and fought hard. Hallelujah!
The continuing evolution of "team" on defense and offense is gratifying. As a "D" first kinda guy, I am loving what I am seeing. Right off, effort matched with solid schemes. The Kings are now sprinting back on defense, and----the hard part---matching up! The last game fast breaks and early "O" easy looks were not there for Portland. That improvement alone makes for an entirely different game...starting with wiping the grins off the opposition.
A couple of weeks ago, in their half court sets, the Kings were pathetic. There was no way the other team couldn't score. Care to dribble all the way and lay it in? Go right ahead... When the dribbler did penetrate, help occasionally arrived, usually as Cousins taking a charge(Yeah!). Even when there was a defensive rotation, it would involve two, maybe three guys....never five. Lately on ball defense by most players(Thompson, Hayes excellent) has been very good, and some(Evans, IT, Thornton) apply serious on ball pressure to ball handlers. When penetration occurs, we now have effective recognition and reaction. Cousins and Hayes are great at taking charges(any other NBA team have two big guys who do that?). There is recognition, rotation as a TEAM. All 5. Gotta love it!
Earlier this year, IF the other team was forced into running their offense, it looked like the Kings "d" resembled the kind of "d" teams play in practice when they are working on making their offense work. The passer wasn't harassed; instead he looked over the floor like he was looking at a dinner menu. If the first option or two wasn't available, teams reversed the ball as though it were a given right. The ball swung back and forth with the ease of a baby's cradle.
With picks(screens) both on the ball, but especially off the ball, the Kings rarely communicated and adjusted. Away from the ball they just followed their guy around, rarely opening up to helpside. Thus they were easy pickin' on screens, even more so since their teammate wasn't helping. Opponents knew a little patience went a long way against our "d". No longer so!
We have fewer players following their man away from the ball(Evans, Thornton still need work there!), and now there is communication, recognition, and effective rotation. on both pick n' rolls, and weakside picks. if those principles of team "D" are not in place, you can't compete! We are establishing those principles as a Team.We are competing!
Beyond that, the Portland game showed us something I don't remember ever from a Kings team(somebody correct me?). We aggressively and athletically double teamed and trapped!!! Portland was flustered...we were aggressive, quick, and hustled at every rotation. It was great. We didn't just defend them, we drove them from their offense. Which leads me to what I believe is Petrie's vision:)
Seems he is attempting to put together a Chicago Bulls(Jordan era) DEFENSE. A number of 6'7-6'8 players who can defend multiple positions, thus allowing them not only to switch nearly all pick and rolls, but also get out in denial and traps. We all see Tyreke's struggles as an offensive point guard(although he's improving in leaps and bounds), but as a DEFENSIVE point guard, what an incredible advantage over other teams...making it difficult for them to compete with us:) !!!
Didn't mean to run on and on, but the attitude and progression of this Team is exciting to behold, At this point, it's important to note the youth and inexperience of our team, and all the new personnel...a regular training camp/preseason was sorely needed for these fundamentals, and cohesion,no matter who was coaching!!! Unfortunately, the first part of the regular season served as our preseason.